‘Turn off your smartphone’ is a mantra that almost every lifestyle guru trots out as a cure for life’s evils and while it is true that smartphones, or more specifically, social media can be a total time suck, I’d like to make the case for the benefits of a smartphone, or more specifically podcasts and audiobooks!
Easy access to audio media means dull tasks and long queues, commutes and exercise are no longer a bore but instead a golden opportunity to get to my favourite podcast or audiobook to either learn or be entertained. Exercise? No problem! In go my headphones and off I go for a walk, or even a run. While people will tell you that the heavy beat of a favourite song will give you motivation for a run, I find that listening to a good book distracts me from the drudgery of my thud thud along the pavement. I am not a happy runner – unless I am listening to a podcast.
Easy access to audio media means dull tasks and long queues, commutes and exercise are no longer a bore
By swapping what would otherwise be dead time for listening to audio media in, you can easily get an extra day a week to enjoy being entertained and educated, which in our time-poor lives is a huge benefit.
How do audiobooks work?
I love real books and still keep a real book for bedtime, but some people do use an audiobook or podcast to help them fall asleep. Luckily, some apps come with a sleep timer so that you won’t miss too much if you do fall asleep.
Audiobooks are accessed via an app on your phone, and once purchased, you can listen as you please, pause, jump back and forwards by 30 seconds, and adjust the narrator speed if you find the narrator speaks too slowly or too fast, or if you just want to get through the book.
Apps such as Audible and audiobooks.com allow you to add notes and take a sound clip (Audible) as you listen, but this is a bit awkward if you are doing something else. In fact, this is my single negative about audiobooks. While listening enables me to get through more books, I still want to makes notes and so if the book is particularly good, I usually end up buying a paper copy as well!
How do I get audiobooks?
If you have a library card (UK), you can download the Libby app from your smartphone app store to access thousands of audiobooks by bestselling authors for free. You will need to type in your library membership number, but that is it. While wonderful and free, titles tend to be from a few years back so don’t expect recent bestsellers on the list.
The BBC Sounds app has a limited but seemingly always-changing selection of audiobooks to listen to. These include classics, such as Wuthering Heights, a serialised book of the week, as well as recent releases such as Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen, a book shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, and narrated by Nicola Coughlan, the wee girl in Bridgerton and Derry Girls. This audiobook would cost you £14.99 if you were to get it off Google Play Books, or a credit from a subscription service.
Other sources of free audiobooks that you can access on your phone include Loyal Books and Project Gutenberg (Android only). These services work through volunteers uploading recordings of books that are in the public domain/past their copyright so this means that your choice will generally be limited to the classics which is not a bad thing as you have the opportunity to catch up on all those books you probably should have read.
Spotify also offers free audiobooks and not just the usual public domain titles, but it is a bit tricky to find them as the app is designed for music and doesn’t have a set section for books – yet.
It helps to understand that a book is stored as an album, and that helpful people have created themed playlists made up of first chapters of various books. Type ‘audiobook’ into the search bar, navigate to playlists and from there you can navigate to the album! You can access these books with a free account but a paid account gets you ad-free listening and better navigation control. There also seems to be news that Spotify are developing their audiobook offering so things could be getting better soon.
Useful resource: How to access audiobooks on Spotify
I used to have an audiobooks.com account which cost £7.99 a month, giving me one book credit from the 250,000 book premium collection, and the opportunity to read an additional book from their ‘specially curated’ VIP collection. The service was ok, I used it for about a year, although more recently I found that some books I was looking for – Where the Crawdads Sing, for example – were not available. In addition, the bonus of the additional book wasn’t all it was cracked out to be as I only ever listened to two titles from the VIP collection, and they were pretty bad. So, in the quest for access to the titles I want, I have just signed up for Amazon’s Audible with Audible’s Prime Day offer. See box.
Amazon’s Audible starter plan usually costs £7.99 per month giving you one book credit. If you want to buy more books you can upgrade to a higher plan, buy extra credits – 3 at a time, or you can buy an audiobook with their ‘1-click’ service, but audiobooks bought this way cost a brutal £17.49 each – or more! Although Audible says it has just 200,000 titles as compared to audiobooks.com’s 250,000, I did find every book I searched from my bookclub list. I guess it is quality over quantity.
Unlike Audible and Audiobooks, Scribd gives you unlimited audiobooks and e-books for your £9.49/month subscription from an estimated 40,000 titles. When I did my test bookclub book search, all books were either unavailable in my country, or just not available on Scribd. However, a general browse indicates there are plenty of bestselling authors so if you aren’t looking for specific books, Scribd could work out to be excellent value. Like most of the subscription apps mentioned above, Scribd does have a free trial period so it is worth giving it a look.
Like most the subscription apps mentioned above, Scribd does have a free trial period so it is worth giving it a look.
Another thing to note is that unlike audiobooks.com and Audible, you do not get to own the books you read on Scribd so if you cancel your subscription, you will no longer have access to any of the books you have read, which may or may not matter.
This is an offer for people already using Prime, but gets you three-months’ membership at one audiobook per month for just 99p for the full three months. After that time you pay the regular £7.99 per month.
If you are not a Prime member you still get a one-month free trial. Click this link.
Disclosure, this is an affiliate links so if you do purchase anything after using these links we may benefit from a small commission, which we would appreciate of course. 🙂
Online audiobook stores
Apple’s Books and Google Play Books are both online audiobook stores where you simply purchase the book of your choice through the app. Our test book – Where the Crawdads Sing – is available on Apple’s Books for £9.99, and on Google Play for an astonishing £21.99. However, that seems to be an exception as most books on Google Play Books appear to cost around the £10 mark. The Google Play Book app is available for both android and iphone devices although it does require iOS 13.7 or later.
As you can see, the cost is a little higher than the subscription services so unless you buying infrequently, and possibly making best use of all the free services, then audiobook stores can work out quite pricey!
These are usually free audio broadcasts put out by professional news organisations, such as the BBC, or individuals, organisations or businesses with information to share. There are podcasts for absolutely every interest, from entrepreneurship to menopause and they can vary in length, from a bitesize 5-minutes to a hard-core 90 minutes or more, but most often they are broken into episodes for easy consumption. You can search for genres and subscribe to a favourite podcast so that new episodes will automatically appear in your library on your phone.
How do you get podcasts?
There are quite a number of podcast apps and since Podcast Insights has written a fabulous article on the subject I will just link it here: Best Podcast Listening Apps (For iOS & Android)
The most popular podcast platforms are:
- iPhone: The ‘Podcast‘ app should already be on your iPhone, is free and advert-free.
- Android: The Google Podcasts app is free, advert-free and available from Play Store.
- Android/iPhone: Overcast, Stitcher and Spotify. The BBC Sounds app is also worth a mention; this includes music, news, podcasts and audiobooks, but you can also subscribe to BBC podcasts through the some of the apps mentioned here.
You can also go directly to a podcaster’s websites and download or listen to their app there without using an app, but the apps provide the convenience of collating the episodes from your favourite podcasters.
The Happy Menopause by Jackie Lynch, Well Well Well
Interviews with various experts about menopause related topics
Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee
Interviews with leading health experts and exciting personalities who offer easy health life-hacks, expert advice and debunk common health myths giving you the tools to revolutionise how you eat, sleep, move and relax.
Someone knows Something, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
True crime cold case investigations. A favourite was series 3 following the 1964 klan murder of two black teenagers — Charles Moore and Henry Dee.
Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4
30 minutes of satirical comedy released every Friday. The series alternates between The News Quiz, The Now Show and Dead Ringers. Warning. You need to be aware that you might find yourself laughing out loud, or at the very least smiling to yourself, which can make you look a little eccentric if out in public.
Although I have included a link to the website for each of these podcasts, you can best download them to your phone via one of the apps mentioned above.
In conclusion, there are so many free audiobook and podcast resources for entertainment and education that there is no reason for you to endure another dull moment of commute, exercise or chore again. For me, with my specific book needs, I do go for the cream on top and pay an Audible subscription – but that’s not a big price to pay for the pleasure I get. Happy listening!
Author: Katie McGregor, Love Life over 40